Children fast-map new words to their referents early on but do not show
robust retention until much later. This paper examines whether
children’s interest in a natural category relates to retention of newly
learned words in that category. German-speaking 24-month-olds and
38-month-olds (n = 88, 41 female) were trained on novel
word-object-associations from different categories. Pupillary arousal
and parental reports served as indices of interest in the objects and
categories presented. Recognition and retention were tested directly
after exposure, five minutes later, and 24 hours later. Both younger and
older children showed successful word-object recognition and retention.
Furthermore, interest in the category modulates young children’s
recognition and retention of newly learned word-object associations from
semantic categories across ages.